The Valley of Heart's Delight


 BIO -Pen Pictures

            David Belden was born at Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut, August 14, 1832.  He came of the old Puritan stock and inherited their fairness of character and untiring energy, with none of their intolerance.  Mr. Belden’s father was a lawyer of considerable prominence in New England.  The subject of this sketch attended the public schools of his native State, and laid the foundation of his education.  He learned all there was to learn in these institutions, which, though noted for their efficiency, could scarcely led him to the door of the higher education he was to achieve by his own unaided efforts, the completeness of which excited the admiration of all who had the good fortune of his acquaintance.  On reaching his majority in 1853, he came to California, stopping at Marysville for two years, where he read law. 

He went to Nevada City in 1855, and commenced the practice of his profession.  During his residence at Nevada City, he also directed his attention toward mining, but this was more for the purpose of practically studying the geological character of the country that for acquisition of the precious metals.  For the same reason he visited Virginia City, Nevada, and made critical examination of the different silver-bearing lodes of Mt. Davidson.  Everything he did seemed to be with the object of acquiring useful information, which, when once stored in his retentive memory, was never lost.  The knowledge thus gained he bestowed with a lavish hand on those around him.  Many a miner whose heart had become sick with hope deferred, has received hints from Judge Belden which have enabled him to realize his golden anticipations; and many a mechanic has received through him the light by which he has been able to do perfect work.  No knowledge was so humble that he would not stoop to pick it up, and none so lofty that he would not climb to reach it.  There seemed no limit to the capacity of his mind for the acquisition of wisdom.  His powers of both analysis and synthesis were wonderful, and however refractory might be the ore that went into the laboratory of his brain, it came out pure and shining metal.  In 1859 he was elected county judge, and occupied the bench four years.  In 1865 he was selected by the people to represent Nevada County in the State Senate.  Here his broad statesmanship and matchless eloquence won new laurels and gave him a State-wide reputation.  At the expiration of his term as senator, he, together with his wife, visited the Old World and traveled for some months through Europe.  In this tour he took occasion to investigate, on the spot, many things of which he had only read, and returned with much information added to his already large store of knowledge.   Art, science, horticulture, mechanism, road making, political economy, literature, architecture, domestic economy, -- he absorbed everything. 

Returning from Europe he removed to San Jose, in 1869, and resumed the practice of law.  In 1871, the Twentieth Judicial District was created, and he was appointed its judge.  In 1873 he was elected to the same position by a practically unanimous vote.  The district then was composed of the counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey.  He held this position until the judiciary system of the State was reorganized, when he was elected judge of the Superior Court.  He was re-elected in 1884, and continued on the bench until his death, which occurred May 14, 1888.  While his wonderful learning excited admiration, and his strict integrity induced respect, no less did his warm and sympathetic nature command the affection of all with whom he came in contact.  He was simple in his habits and unostentatious in his appearance.  Anyone could approach him and draw at will on his great stores of knowledge, while neither his heart nor his purse were closed to the tale of distress. He was eminently a progressive man and ready to lend his valuable assistance to every  enterprise for the benefit of the community.  Many of our proudest monuments owe their existence to the timely and intelligent efforts of Judge Belden.  The amount of work he performed was enormous, and it was this interminable labor without rest that finally accomplished his death.  He possessed a robust frame, but it was worn out by his still more vigorous mind.  It would be impossible to enumerate the many great works which his assistance has rendered possible.  His handwriting is visible on every page of the history of the county since his name was enrolled as one of its citizens.  At his death the whole State mourned, and at his obsequies all were present to pay tribute to his memory.  Business was suspended, the temple of justice in which he had so long presided was draped in mourning, and the people from all the walks of life came forth with grieving hearts to place their floral offerings on the tomb of their counselor and friend.  The remains were borne to their last resting-place by his brothers in the profession, and the eulogy pronounced by the Supreme Court of the State through its chief justice, Searles.  The whole people composed the cortege and none were left who did not show visible signs of the sorrow which filled their hearts.  Judge Belden was married, April 21, 1861, to Miss Elizabeth C. Farrell, of New Jersey, a lady eminently fitted to be the wife of such a man.  Highly educated and accomplished, but with strong domestic instincts, she made for him a most congenial home.  Possessed of strong intelligence, she was able to render him valuable assistance in most of his work.  She was his support and consolation during his wedded life and his true mourner after his death.  She remains on the homestead, and preserves it in the same condition in which it was left by her husband.

            Following are the resolutions adopted by the Bar in respect to the memory of Judge Belden: --
            WHEREAS, It has pleased the ever wise and merciful Author of justice to remove from our midst and from the scene of his earthly labors the Honorable David Belden, Judge of the Superior Court of the County of Santa Clara and State of California; and,
                WHEREAS, In his death, the judicial system of Santa Clara County has suffered its most sad and serious loss since its organization; and,
                WHEREAS, The whole community of which Judge Belden was for many years a useful and beloved member, unites with the Bar in sincere grief about his bier; and,
                WHEREAS, It is fitting that to the public record of his eminent services as a judicial officer there should be appended the seal of a merited recognition by the court over which he presided with dignity, learning, and honor; be it therefore
                Resolved, That, in the untimely death of Hon. David Belden, the Bench and Bar of Santa Clara County have lost a most able, reliable, just and respected member; the State of California a most useful, illustrious, and conscientious jurist; the community a rare example of true greatness and virtue; that, as a judge of the Twentieth Judicial District of the State of California from 1871 until 1880, and of the Superior Court of Santa Clara County from 1880 to the date of his death, he ever wore the stainless ermine of judicial integrity, displaying in his opinions and rulings a quick perception of the principles of justice, and a deep and discriminating study of the precedents and precepts of law applicable to every case, bearing himself always with a lofty impartiality toward the parties and the interests involved.  In his administration of the penal statutes to offenders brought before his court he was ever moved with earnest and untiring desire to temper the severity of the sentence with that degree of mercy required by each individual case, to foster and encourage every impulse toward virtue concealed in the criminal’s heart.  In his bearing toward the Bar, he was distinguished for the graceful and uniform courtesy accorded every member, and especially noted for the kindly encouragement which constantly flowed to the young men of the profession, qualities which won for him the esteem and veneration of the former and confidence and love of the latter, -- an esteem, veneration, confidence, and love which cease not at his grave, but which will continue to make fragrant his memory through the years to come.  That as a citizen, sprung from the ranks of the masses, and, rising through a life-time of labor, by native force of character, to an eminence of distinguished usefulness, his career compels the admiration of all classes of society, and should especially excite the young men of our coast to an imitation of the virtues of his public and private life.  In the shaping of public affairs his advice was always easy of access, and ever found well-considered and wise.  No member of society was more sensitive to the pulsations of public opinion, or more apt in appreciation of public needs.  Never forward in the impression of his personality upon the current of affairs, he was never backward in meeting the emergencies of any occasion with a fortitude born of his convictions of right.  With broad intellectuality, with brilliant literary ability, with incessant zeal, he investigated every problem of life and scattered his conclusions broadcast with a tongue of silver and a pen of fire.  That though his loss to the community is lamented as a judge of transcendent ability and a citizen of distinguished usefulness, it is as a man among men that the death of David Belden is most keenly felt and most sincerely deplored.  The friend, the brother, the counselor, the very model of all the social virtues, he lived out with consistent purity his simple and noble existence, and is gone in answer to the morning call of immortality.  Beside the unstained robes of his public service may be laid the equally immaculate garments of his private life.  To the widow of our departed friend and brother, who, through the well-filled years of a noble life has been the partner of his joys and griefs, the Bar of Santa Clara County extends the comfort of the heart-felt sympathy of its every member; in token whereof be it
                Resolved, That as a body the Bar attend the funeral and sepulture of her beloved companion. That, as a mark of respect to their late occupant, the judicial chair and bench of Department No. 1, of the Superior Court of this county, be draped in mourning for the space of twenty days.  That these resolutions be offered before the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, at the next sitting thereof, with the request that they be spread upon the minutes of said court; that a certified copy of the same, and the further action of the Court, be, by the clerk thereof, transmitted to the widow and family of the deceased; and that one publication of these resolutions be made upon the pages of the public press.
                In making the order to spread these resolutions on the minutes, and to transmit a copy to the widow, Judge Spencer said: --
            “MY BROTHERS OF THE BAR OF SAN JOSE:  In the removal by death of my honored associate, we, in common with his relatives and community at large, have indeed suffered a great and irreparable loss.  I can but ill bring myself to the stern realization of the fact that the relentless destroyer has taken from my side one who for these eight years has been my co-laborer in the delicate and arduous duties incident to the office of judge of the Superior Court; one with whom I have oft held instructive and pleasant consultations, and with whom I have maintained most intimate and cordial personal relations.  I knew him well, and thus knowing I can truly say that his virtues were many and noble; his faults few and insignificant.  Indefatigable and conscientious in the attention to, and the performance of, his judicial duties, he was stricken while in the midst of his labors. With Spartan courage and steadfast devotion to duty, inherited from his Puritan ancestors, for nearly three years did he battle with death and stand by his post with unswerving fortitude, attending to every duty of his office.  To the oft-repeated solicitation of friends to give himself relaxation and rest, he has often responded from the fullness of his convictions of duty, ‘I would rather wear out than rust out.’  And most truly did he wear out in the performance of his judicial duties, for not until the overtaxed body and weakened vital organs had broken out in open rebellion did he yield to the inevitable, and was carried out of the temple of justice, which he had adorned as district and superior judge for sixteen years, to linger by the dark river until the ferryman should come to transport him to a haven of well-earned rest.
            “Judge Belden was at the time of his death fifty-five years and nine months of age, and had served with distinction and honor in the several judicial positions of county judge of Nevada County, district judge of the Twentieth Judicial District, and superior judge of this county for the collective period of twenty years. 
            “Not only was he an able expounder of the law, but the citizens of his former mountain home had delighted in sending him to the halls of legislation, where, as a senator, he distinguished himself as an able law-maker and a leader among his fellows.
            “He was a truly remarkable man.  Many have gone before him whose legal attainments have been equal to his.  Others may have equally possessed the treasure of masterly eloquence.  But it has never been my fortune to find combined in any other person so many rare and glowing qualities of heart, brain, and personal accomplishments.
            “As an orator it has been truly said of him that ‘he spoke with a tongue of silver;’ his command of language was wonderful, his selections beautiful and most happy.  He was wont at times with his bursts of eloquence to hold his listeners delighted and entranced.  Although his delivery was rapid, he never hesitated for an apt word or sentence.  ‘His words came skipping rank and file almost before he would.’
            “As a jurist he had few superiors.  Well grounded in the elements of law, and conversant with the mass of judicial precedents, he added that ready perception of principles applicable to any given set of facts, and that peculiarly incisive power of reasoning that make the true lawyer.
            “But his attainments by no means stopped with those of his chosen profession.  His researches in the general domain of knowledge included almost every branch of science, art, history, and political economy.
            “Although not a specialist in any one department, he was at home as well when gazing at the gems of night, figuring their parallax and discussing the laws of planetary motion, as when calculating the angle of aperture of an object glass or studying the phenomena of the border line of life exhibited in the amoebae. 
            “But as a judge did his fitting qualities shine forth with undimmed luster.
            “He was a just judge, a wise interpreter of the law and evidence, and withal simple and unassuming in manner, and sympathetic almost to a fault.
            “He has passed from our midst forever.  The chair that he was wont to fill with so much dignity, honor, and credit is now vacant.  His robes of office have been replaced by the winding sheet.  We have laid him away in his final resting-place, and have taken to our hearts the solemn and instructive monition that the sad lesson affords.
            “A loving wife is mourning the loss of a loyal and affectionate husband.  The Bar of this county, and the profession at large, lament the loss of a cherished brother, and the county and State a valued citizen and faithful public servant.
            “But the memory of his virtues and noble qualities we should ever keep green in our hearts, and it is eminently fitting that the resolutions now presented by  his brothers of the Bar should be inscribed upon the pages of the records of the court which he has caused to be kept so many years.
            “Let the motion be granted, and an engrossed copy of the resolutions be presented to the bereaved family.”

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. p. 84-86
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler


SANTA CLARA COUNTY -The Valley of Heart's Delight